Road to 500

17 Jun

As a child I knew from the moment I buckled into Darien Lake’s “Viper” that I was born to ride. I spent my childhood playing Disney’s Coaster DOS game, drawing over 300 coasters during recess, and leafing through issues of Inside Track magazine. Later in life the passion stuck as I worked the rides as an employee of Martin’s Fantasy Island, and Cedar Point in addition to diminishing my college GPA by staying up all night designing theme parks in Roller Coaster Tycoon. When I was younger I dreamt of the day I would ride my 100th roller coaster, and while I pictured myself traveling the world  to accomplish this feat, I never imagined it would come to this… my 500th coaster.

Welcome to “500 Rides of Summer.” I could have knocked off a few extra credits in Japan and Taiwan, but I was holding out for that special ride, one worthy of number 500. While America offered a plethora of options to choose from, ultimately I chose a park that exudes ‘Americana,’ and represents what an amusement park should be. Consequently, Knoebel’s, in Elysburg, Pennsylvania, with probably the best long-standing reputation of operating a family-friendly park with appropriate pricing and dedication towards renewing, rescuing, and restoring classic rides and attractions, will be the site for my 500th coaster.

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In 2004, I was fortunate enough to visit Knoebel’s , so I scooped up coaster credits on the late “Whirlwind” and “High Speed Thrill Coaster,” in addition to the currently operating “Phoenix” and “Twister,” which leaves me with four possible credits at Knoebel’s.

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Black Diamond: indoor wooden/steel Philadelphia Toboggan Coaster creation

We’ll start with “Black Diamond” for #498, as it’s a nostalgic ride and one rescued from Dinosaur Beach, a defunct boardwalk park in New Jersey.

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Impulse: 2015 Zierer’s vertical lift looper

For #499, “Impulse” fits in well as it’s a cutting edge creation at the tip of innovation.

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Flying Turns: a 2013 in-house built wooden bobsled

But for the epic #500, I could think of no better  choice(Dollywood’s “Lightning Rod” was a close second) than the one-of-a-kind wooden bobsled coaster “Flying Turns.” It’s also significant because it took years of planning, frustration, and investment to finally produce this ‘iconic whirlwind of fun,’ which I rather arrogantly (please excuse the pride) associate with reaching #500.

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Kozmo’s Kurves: 2009 Miler family coaster

Then the new era begins as all life should with childhood innocence as I take a joyful romp on “Kozmo’s Kurves,” permitting the friendly staff allows this 6′ foot 1 dangly dude to ride.

Thank you to Knoebel’s for hosting my special moment, and I look forward sharing snapshots and perhaps video, if Mr. GoPro and I may ride together, of the #500 ride and our overall park visit.

For perspective’s sake, there are dozens of coasterers who have ridden far more than 500 coasters, and they too should be celebrated. My 500th ride is not meant to serve as a bragging right but rather a testament to the passion our coastering community has for seeking out the next best thrill. Every single new ride should be commemorated and celebrated. I’m not sure if I’ll ever get to #1,000, but I’m happy to know that I got here, and I’ll never stop riding! Special thanks to my beloved parents for always allowing me to hijack the family trip and steer us towards an amusement park, and to my soul-mate and wife Jaewon for traveling around the world and riding alongside me, and to all the fellow coasterers who I’ve met and renewed my vigor and passion for man-made slopes of fun!

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Coastering in Hokkaido, Japan at Rusutsu Resort. #GoGoSneaker

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